Suggestions Welcomed

Among the various challenges Ate Up With Motor faces in the new year is that I need to find a different WordPress theme, as the one I’ve been using since 2020 is apparently no longer being updated. If anyone has any suggestions of non-premium WordPress themes that (a) would allow me to retain something close to the current layout, (b) are reasonably suitable for current mobile devices, and — crucially — (c) don’t rely on external resources like Google Hosted Libraries, I would be eager to hear them.

(I won’t voluntarily use Google Fonts, but I’m particularly nervous about themes that rely on CDN-hosted scripts, which are harder to remove. Google Fonts can be replaced through a child theme style sheet if the theme’s structure isn’t too cumbersome — it’s notably easier in some themes than others — but switching scripts and icon sets from embedded to local resources can require recreating half of the damned theme, which is troublesome.)

Technical Note on Links

I just made another technical update that I’m hoping won’t break anything.

Many of the links on the site are designed to open in a new browser tab or window. This is sometimes convenient, but can apparently be exploited for an obnoxious browser hijack unless you add a special attribute to the link (rel=”noopener”). I’ve attempted to add that throughout the site, which should not affect any normal function — unless I made a syntax error somewhere, in which case there may be some broken links.

If you find a link that doesn’t work or does something weird, please let me know! You can reach me through the Contact Form or by leaving a comment on the item where you found the bad link. Thanks for your patience.

A Note About Photos

I’ve just added a note to the Privacy Policy that bears some explanation.

Ate Up With Motor has lots of photos. Most of them were taken in public places, sometimes by people other than me — at car shows, on the street, and so forth. Inevitably, some of those photos have people in the background. Now, generally, under U.S. law, this kind of editorial usage is not a big deal, since people in public places usually don’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”; otherwise, newspapers and news shows could never run crowd shots. However, under the EU’s new GDPR directive and associated local law, any recognizable image of a natural person may be considered personally identifying information, which becomes messy.

The plain reality is this: I usually do not have any reasonable way to know the identities of people who may be visible in the backgrounds of photos (especially in big crowds), nor am I usually able to associate their images with any other information I might have about them. If you’re a regular visitor to Ate Up With Motor and you popped up in the background of some photo taken at a car show five years ago, I probably don’t know it! Also, while some photographers make an effort to obscure the faces of bystanders — I started doing this with my own photos about seven years ago — that isn’t always possible, or successful. (I’ve seen a number of photos where the photographer or editor overlooked the face of someone leaning out a window in the background or something like that.) If a photo isn’t mine, I may not have the right to modify it in that way, and even if I do, the original online source may still have the unmodified, un-obscured original. There’s not usually anything I can do about that.

So, all I can reasonably do is note in the Privacy Policy that this is something that may occasionally happen, and ask that if you see yourself (or some information about you) in a photo and feel bothered by it, you contact me to discuss how best I can alleviate your concerns. Also, please understand that if you request your information under the GDPR, I probably don’t have any way to associate your comments or other data with the tiny figure in the background of a car show photo!

A comment on comments

While fussing with the Terms of Use to go along with the GDPR stuff, I realized I should update the Comment Policy regarding changing or deleting comments. Normally, after you post a comment, WordPress gives you a window of 15 minutes in which you can edit or delete the comment. However, since I have comments moderated, these options generally aren’t available.

So, if you have a previously published comment you’d like to change or remove, the simplest thing to do is to reply to it, asking me to change or delete it. Your reply goes into the moderation queue, so I will see the request and can easily figure out which comment you’re talking about.

If you ask for an edit rather than a deletion, just please try to be clear whether you want me to publish your reply or just change the original comment.

Pardon Our Dust

Throughout this week and perhaps for at least the next few days, you may encounter some odd stuff on Ate Up With Motor, such as different privacy notice banners. This is because I’m still trying to update things for greater compliance with the European GDPR rules taking effect on Friday. Unfortunately, there is no one plugin or tool that provides all the functionality I need, and many are in a rudimentary state as their developers scramble to get them working properly as half the world’s WordPress users have a simultaneous meltdown. Some of the work therefore involves a high level of technical complexity that is at the ragged limits of my understanding (if the phrase “function hooks” leaves you scratching your head, you’re not alone!). Some things I don’t know how to do, and entities to whom I’ve reached out with technical support questions are all swamped. I’m hoping that by next week, I’ll have it in some kind of workable order, but there’s an awful lot. My apologies for the inconvenience!

ETA: I also want to apologize for the “our privacy policy has changed” prompt screen that keeps coming up. One of the GDPR’s requirements is that if the policy changes in any substantive way (“substantive” meaning basically anything other than fixing a spelling or punctuation error), you MUST prompt users to review and consent to the policy again. This is well-meaning, but obviously can get very frustrating for visitors.

A Shocking Omission

The other night, I was browsing through Brian Heiler’s Plaid Stallions website, as one does, and had a minor epiphany. When I wrote about the FWD GMC Motor Home a few years ago, I mentioned that it had been part of the Mattel Hot Wheels line for a while, but I neglected to mention that it had also been the basis for the ne plus ultra of seventies girls’ toys: Mattel’s Barbie Star Traveler Motor Home. Blogger Laura Moncur has previously written about her Star Traveler toy and how it even tempted her to invest in the real thing.

Brian Heiler also noted a particularly obscure connection: Mattel used what were clearly the same molds as the Star Traveler for the Big Jim Super Car, part of another, now largely forgotten seventies toy line.

Privacy update

I’ve updated the site Privacy Policy regarding Google Analytics, which Google is now updating based on a new EU privacy law. The gist as I understand it is this: As of May 25, 2018, Google is introducing new data retention settings that determine how long Google Analytics will retain the data it gathers for the site. I’ve set it to automatically delete data after 26 months.

I’ve also clarified that although Google Analytics has a User-ID tool that can attempt to identify a unique user across devices, I have deliberately never enabled that tool. I’ve now disabled the setting to include the Users metric in the analytics reports. (I’ve never looked at that tab in the reports, so I’m not entirely sure if it was even putting anything there with User-ID turned off.)

To be candid, I am not comfortable with online tracking and analytics services except of the most rudimentary sort. I need to know aggregate data — e.g., how many people visited the site last month — and it’s often helpful for me to see where referral traffic is coming from, but I don’t consider it appropriate or ethical for websites to develop behavioral profiles of their users. I’m a writer, not an intelligence officer or a cop!

If you have any questions about the policy or Ate Up With Motor’s use of analytics, please let me know via comment or the Contact Form. Also, if you have specific concerns or recommendations regarding Google Analytics settings (which I must confess are often at the ragged edge of my technical understanding), I am certainly open to suggestions.

Secrets of the Simpson Gearset

If you’re familiar with transmissions like the Chrysler TorqueFlite and GM Turbo Hydra-Matic (among others), you may have heard of the “Simpson gearset.” In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we look at the origins and function of the Simpson gearset and briefly introduce you to its inventor, the late Howard W. Simpson.
Continue Reading Secrets of the Simpson Gearset

Giving Slip the Slip: Lockup Torque Converters and Split Torque Automatic Transmissions

Fluid clutches — fluid couplings and torque converters — have many advantages for automotive transmissions, but with those benefits comes a cost: fuel-wasting hydraulic slippage even at cruising speed. Since the 1940s, automakers have come up with a variety of strategies for reducing or eliminating that slip, including series parallel “split torque” transmissions and different types of converter lockup clutches. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a look at how GM, Ford, Chrysler, Packard, and Studebaker have approached this slippery problem from 1949 through the late eighties.
Continue Reading Giving Slip the Slip: Lockup Torque Converters and Split Torque Automatic Transmissions

Update Your Bookmarks

As you might have noticed, I have implemented an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate on the site, so the address bar in your browser should now say https rather than http — hopefully without any little yellow triangles or other warning indicators.

I decided to go to HTTPS for four reasons: 1) Search engines are beginning to favor secure sites over ones that are unencrypted; 2) it’s better for security; 3) it’s better for your privacy; and 4) it’s better for my privacy.

The caveat is that setting up HTTPS is complicated even if you are a computer nerd, which I most assuredly am not. It appears things are now working properly and non-secure (http) links are automatically redirecting to secure ones (https), as they should be, but there may be other hiccups I haven’t yet noticed. If you experience any problems, such as your browser warning you that parts of the page are not secure (what’s called a “mixed content” error), please let me know (and be sure to specify what browser you’re using!).

In the meantime, if you have bookmarks to Ate Up With Motor or to specific pages or articles, I would recommend that you update them to the new https addresses at your convenience. Again, the old links should still redirect, but going directly to the secure versions will help the site run faster and encourage search engines to get on the same page.